Italy set to approve product plugs

Government OKs product placement on TV

ROME — The Italian government is set to allow product placement on local TV programs under new rules greenlit by the European Union.

Italy’s Senate on Wednesday began discussions on the controversial subject, but it is certain to pass because it’s backed by the country’s majority bloc headed by prime minister and Mediaset owner Silvio Berlusconi.

The new legislation will permit placing branded items, such as beverages, cell phones and fashions, within scenes on telepics serials and other programs, but excluding children’s shows.

Produce placement was included in the EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive guidelines approved in December 2007.

While European governments have until December to implement the directive as a whole, each EU member state is free to decide whether it wants to adopt the specific rules it sets out for product placement on TV. The practice has been legal in Italian movies since 2004. 

Claiming the law favors commerce over culture, Italy’s center-left opposition is fighting product placement, or at least hoping to make it more restrictive.

“Shows for teens will be submerged by brands, and teens are still a highly susceptible demographic,” said Democratic Party Senator Vincenzo Vita.

The advertising lifeline comes as Berlusconi’s Mediaset, pubcaster RAI and other media outlets are contending with Italy’s steepest advertising slump in 16 years.

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